Madison Johnson

When I protested on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I learned more about Dr. King than I ever have in my life.

My supporters and I passed around his “I Have a Dream” speech and took turns reading it. I read off facts and reminded everyone of the First Amendment; freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press and the right to peacefully assemble. What better way to celebrate this day than to assemble in a peaceful protest and have our voices heard?

During the civil rights movement, Dr. King was a peaceful protester. He promoted the idea that “black lives matter” all over the nation. Whatever reason is behind the Grand County School District’s decision not to observe this day is interesting to me. Is it because here in Moab, people are predominantly white?

Many students I talked to did not even know what day it was.

From my understanding, the students in school were indeed asked trivia questions while switching classes and were rewarded with movie tickets if they gave the correct answers. To me, this is only testing the students’ common knowledge of Dr. King, and does not teach us about the man’s life or the civil rights movement.

There has been a little bit of a negative backlash from the protest, and people seem to think that I just wanted a day off to play video games. (This is what our elders seem to think teenagers do on their days off.)

I was quoted as saying, “I think it’s disrespectful to go about school,” meaning that we went about it as just a regular day. Instead, we should have been learning about the civil rights movement and Dr. King, and we should have been listening to his speech while we gathered in an assembly.

The Utah NAACP responded to me with kindness and support toward myself and all the students that stood with me on that curb.

As former NAACP Board of Directors chairman Julian Bond said, “If there was social justice, there would be no need for social service.”

I believe the civil rights movement, Dr. King and all the other activists and peacemakers of that time are just as relevant today in our education – not only on specific holidays, but during school in general. This is an important part of our history, as we still march on today to realize Dr. King’s dream.

I believe there is still work to be done. I am proud of myself and everyone who stood with me for sparking debate in our community.

Thank you to all who support me, and to my sister Mya for inspiration.

Madison Johnson is a junior at Grand County High School.